Episode I – The Borneo Expedition : Long Pasia & The Legend Of Upai Semaring

THE BORNEO EXPEDITION – Experience Borneo Like Never Before

The Borneo Expedition is a 4WD overlanding adventure travel series to promote overland routes in Borneo and beyond. Each expedition comprises of an exhilarating experience exploring destinations of significant geological, ecological, cultural and historical importance.

This episode was aired in ASTRO Channel 109 and RTM in 2019.


The Expedition Team 


For Episode 1, the Borneo Expedition visits Long Pasia, the most southern part of Sabah in the Ulu Padas area. The Ulu Padas is known for being one of the richest plant diversity areas in Sabah, and Long Pasia a village that is particularly rich in culture, history and natural heritage, making it an absolutely unique tourist destination.


Panaromic Aerial View of Long Pasia  

Long Pasia is the home of the Lundayeh people who have many similarities with the neighbouring Lundayeh people of the Kerayan-Kalabit highlands of East Kalimantan in Indonesia and Lawas, Sarawak where they are called Lun Bawang.


Sabah Map copy

Long Pasia is located more than 250 Km from Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah. The overland journey to Long Pasia starts on the north-south highway from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom crossing the mighty Crocker Range. From the junction midway between Tenom and Sipitang highway, a 90 Km off road section awaits you before reaching Long Pasia.
Elevation changes become more dramatic with steep inclines going up to 1,220m above sea level at the highest point. The weather changes to a cooler, more comfortable temperature, as you leave the hot humid lowlands into the highlands of Long Pasia located at 1,000km above sea level.


90 Km off road section from Tenom to Long Pasia


The all new Mitsubishi Triton leading the Convoy Convoy passing the Maligan River

If you feel the drive might be too long, you can camp overnight at Maligan River, about an hour away from the village, to rest and recharge for the adventure ahead.


Overnight camping at the Maligan River


The Borneo Expedition Team arrives at Long Pasia


There are so much to discover in Long Pasia. Here at the confluence of the Pasia and Maga rivers is Taman Maga Nooh covering an area of 2,472 hectares of tropical rainforest. The area is well protected to preserve its flora and fauna diversity, in particular Maga Natural Flower Garden, an area with an abundance of wild orchids, rhododendrons and pitcher plants.
Sinipung Hill, also known as Bukit Rimau, is located between the villages of Long Pasia and Long Mio. Apart from an adventurous trek, the main attraction of this 1,900m hill is the changing flora as you move into its higher elevation where a large number of rare orchids and various sub-species of pitcher plants can be found. The breathtaking views of Long Pasia and Long Mio with the backdrop of the highest mountain in that area, Mount Muruk Mio (2,094m) make this another popular trekking route.


Map of Long Pasia and surrounding attractions – Drawn by Lait Lakong

Not far from Sinipung Hill is Sinipung Lake, which has a legend of its own. A strange creature is believed to have lived in this mysterious lake that was abundantly filled with fish. Three villagers from Long Pasia found the lake while hunting and told their families and friends who came to the lake to fish. As they were fishing, the creature appeared and let out a terrible scream that killed everyone who heard it. Only three villagers escaped. Since then, the lake had disappeared for four generations before being found again in 1997. No one knows for sure if this is the same lake as the one which disappeared but there are no fish in the new-found lake.

Towards to south west region, another beautiful waterfall awaits you. At the Fefuken falls, rafflesia flowers can be spotted.
The serpent and crocodile mounds are special ceremonial earth mounds in the shaped of a serpent and crocodile. In ancient times, it was considered a great victory for a Lundayeh warrior to behead his enemy. Returning home from head-hunting, he would raise a ceremonial pole in a middle of a mound shaped like a crocodile or snake, both animals considered to be fierce and powerful.

The culmination of the ritual was when the host slashed his fighting sword into the back of the crocodile, thereby demonstrating his strength and bravery. This celebration will go on for days where they will sing, dance and drink the local brewed alcohol burak. These mounts still can be found surrounding Long Pasia today and also a good attraction to visit. The Lundayeh people have however stop practicing headhunting and rituals after they adopted the Christian faith preached by the British missionaries in the 19th century during the North Borneo Company administration between 1881 to 1946.


The rainforest of Long Pasia holds a very special place in the ancient spiritual beliefs of the Lundayeh people. It is said that the spirits living within its realm will choose a guardian from among the mortals to protect it from harm. Since young, Nooh Dawa has shared a strong bond with the forest and nature where his father had always brought him deep into the forest near his village to hunt.


In 1979, while out hunting upstream of the Pasia river, he had a dream of an old man in a white gown with long hair for 2 consecutive nights. One the second night, he dreamt of the old man instructing him to obtain two plant species from a flower garden and plant them on the big rock at Maga Falls. Upon completing the old man’s instructions, Nooh woke up from his dream.


The next morning, Nooh made his way to Maga Falls and saw two forest trees with needle-like leaves growing on top of a big rock. He believed that the old man was the spirit of the area and wanted Nooh to be the guardian of the surrounding areas.


Nooh has been protecting the Maga Falls area ever since and has repelled efforts to log the area in the 1980s, while constantly keeping watch over the forest till today. With the support from the villages, Nooh has decided that the best way to protect the forest is to build a campsite and bring tourist to visit Maga Falls.


The 15 Km Warriors Trail to Maga Falls

Guided by Nooh, the Borneo Expedition team explored a 2-day trek to Maga Falls which is a beautiful five-tier waterfall at the upper reaches of the Pasia River. This trail was used by the Lundayeh warriors in ancient times including the famous Lundayeh warrior named Upai Semaring.


Makeshift bridges for river crossings

The trail is a 15 Km trail starting from Long Pasia to Maga Falls with gradual elevation starting from 1,000 m in Long Pasia and finishing 1,200 m at Maga Falls campsite. Although the terrain is gradual, it took the team 8 hours to reach Maga Falls. The trail is along side the Pasia river thus making it very scenic with lush tropical low land forest with natural trail and beautiful stones structures along the river.


Maga Falls CampsiteAerial view of Maga Falls

The Maga Falls campsite is a makeshift campsite of 2 wooden structures build by Nooh and the villages with materials that need to be hand carried from Long Pasia! Some of the wooden structures are now deteriorating and Nooh hopes to find some funds to rebuild the camp site to accommodate more visitors to Maga Falls and support the homestay activities of Long Pasia.
If you are up for an adventure to the less travelled location, Maga Falls is a great destination to explore!


At Long Pasia and in Lundayeh folklore, Upai Semaring was a figure they believed to be their great forefather. He was a giant of a man and famous for his hunting skills and fish traps. Many stories have been told of Upai Semaring’s bravery and strength which gained him a lot of respect from the local villagers.


Upai Semaring Illusration by: Ryan Gerald Siringan

While on the Matang River, Upai Semaring stopped to carve on a stone with his forefinger. Known locally as ‘Batu Inarit’, there are several made by Upai Semaring with one similar rock carving found on a stone near Punang Trusan close to the Sarawak-Sabah border.


The rock engravings on the Matang river are believed to be arit inawa, or “romantic expressions” dedicated by Upai Semaring to his wife, Bau.


According to local folklore, Upai Semaring left behind many interesting historical markers of his journey. Apart from the carved stone at Matang River, there are also cooking stones (Batu Angan) where he stopped to make camp, his footprint and table (Batu Teng) near Maga Falls and his daughter’s burial along the Pasia River. Traces of Upai Semaring’s historical markers can be found surrounding Long Pasia and also along the warrior’s trail to Maga Falls.


The boat journey along the Matang River


Upai Semaring’s carved stone “Batu Inarit” along the Matang River


Batu Teng or Upai Semaring’s eating table along the Warriors Trail


Upai Semaring’s foot print near Maga Falls


The Organic Adan Rice of Long Pasia


“I used to walk 5 days from Long Pasia to Sipitang during my youth in the 70’s. We will just bring some rice and will look for food along the way” Mudin said while having a coffee break during the the harvesting of the famous Long Pasia padi.


As explained by Mudin, the village chief of Long Pasia, the Adan rice is an organic rice, free from pesticides and any form of fertilizers. The Adan rice is only harvested once per year where planting commenced in August and harvesting in the month of February the following year. You need to plan your trip well in advance in February each year to catch the harvesting activities.
It’s such a wonderful occasion where villagers will “gotong royong” in groups to harvest their crops during the harvesting month. Starting in the morning, they will cut the padi and later beat it to separate the seeds.


Gotong Royong Adan Rice Harvesting

The rice of Long Pasia is very delicious similar to Bario in the Kalabit Highlands. Buying back some Long Pasia rice is a must when you visit Long Pasia where villagers will gladly sell you some.
The homestays in the village will serve you the Adan rice and if you like the delicious flavour you are most welcome to buy some home. This is an opportunity for the villagers to sell and to earn some income.

Mudin also provide homestay in his house in Long Pasia. Will be awesome to chat with the village chief during your stay and listen to his stories and history of the Lundayeh people.


Lait Lakong is another local figure that you must know. While spending full time as a guide to bring visitors around Long Pasia, he is also a famous artist. He started painting in 2005 when WWF Malaysia discovered his talent and commissioned him to paint a story about the myths and legends of the Lundayeh people.


Lait draws his art inspiration from the forest and interest in nature. He paints according to his vision and his imagination while in the jungle by using technical pens, a creation of his own.
His work is widely exhibited and he done numerous solo exhibitions at Hyatt Hotel, Sabah Art Gallery and Sabah Museum. In 2014, he did few solo exhibitions and road shows in Penang, Ipoh, Malacca and Kuala Lumpur. His paintings are sold to buyers mainly from overseas from Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, the United States, Dubai, China and Japan.

Lait hopes to develop Long Pasia as an art center one day and he has started to groom local school children to develop their talents by teaching them how to paint and colouring techniques.
The message from his paintings are related to the environment and more so to the development of tourism in Long Pasia. Through his paintings, he hopes to convey to the outside world the beauty of Long Pasia. So once the tourism industry starts to flourish, it will bring economic benefits to the people of Long Pasia. Do visit his gallery and homestay at his home in Long Pasia and who knows, you may fall for one of his masterpiece!



Long Pasia is such an amazing place to visit and explore. It’s a fantastic overlanding destination with geological, historical, and cultural experiences to treasure. Homestays at the village are available with basic tourist facilities to cater to visitors on longer stays.
Whether it’s a weekend getaway to enjoy driving off the beaten track and camping in the forest, or a longer trip to take in everything Long Pasia has to offer, overlanding to Long Pasia is an adventure not to be missed.

To visit Long Pasia, please contact:  Nooh Dawa at: +6017-8663556 ,+6010-4250997 or +6017-8369936.  Lait Lakong aka Mataga at: +6012-8181876

To find our more about the 4WD Adventure Series, Please visit: www.theborneoexpedition.com


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